Voters in 150 constituencies have already exercised their votes during the first two phases of polling. After Western Uttar Pradesh, the focus now has shifted to the historically and politically significant region of Awadh and Purvanchal (eastern Uttar Pradesh). These two densely populated regions, lying on the fertile Indo-Gangetic plains, have 234 seats in these regions. The political significance should be gauged by the fact that eight of the 15 Prime Ministers, India has had, were elected from these regions.
Of the 109 constituencies that recorded a low margin of victory in the 2012 elections, 61 were situated in Awadh and Purvanchal. That amounts to one-fourth of the total seats in the region. Such a high percentage of narrow-margin victories point out to  closely fought electoral battles in the two politically crucial regions of the state.
However, of the 89 Purvanchal seats which go to polls in the final two phases, only 16 were won narrowly in the 2012 elections.
This means that the next three phases of Assembly election taking place in the Awadh region would cover 45 seats that had been won by a margin of less than three percent votes in 2012.
The last election’s data throws some interesting bits of information.
Take for instance, the Farrukhabad constituency, which is located in the Awadh region. The constituency, which votes on Sunday, witnessed an interesting contest last time, when an Independent candidate Vijay Singh trounced BJP’s Major Suneel Dutt Dwivedi by a nerve-wrecking margin of just 147 votes.
In fact, Singh was only one of the two Independents candidates who managed to scrap through to a win – the other instance was in the Sayadraja constituency which goes to polls on 8 March.
Similarly, the Ghazipur constituency, which comes under Purvanchal, recorded a narrow victory in 2012 polls.
Last election, the constituency – it goes to poll in the final phase – witnessed a SP versus BSP battle that went down to the wire. Ultimately, the SP candidate Vijay Kumar Mishra defeated his nearest BSP rival Raj Kumar by a margin of 241 votes. Mishra went on to be a minister in the Akhilesh Yadav government before joining the BJP on 16 February.
While Awadh and Purvanchal hog the limelight in the electoral battlefield of Uttar Pradesh, the impoverished and politically insignificant Bundelkhand is often ignored.
Bundelkhand – the forgotten backwaters of Uttar Pradesh
The region, which has been facing severe drought problems since many years, saw the BSP doing better than the rest as it secured seven out of 19 seats. Six seats in the region were won narrowly – the BSP winning four while the SP emerging victorious in the remaining two. However, with just 19 seats, Bundelkhand may play no major role in determining Uttar Pradesh's political destiny.
The scenario looks different this time
The race to Lucknow seems to be much more interesting this election. Unlike 2012, this time around the SP has joined hands with the Congress, while BJP now looks a much more formidable opponent after its astonishing victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. On the other hand, BSP seems to be on the backfoot after its debacle in the Lok Sabha polls.
The ruling party is banking on its young chief minister Akhilesh Yadav’s development image to ride back to power – a factor which may have encouraged Rahul Gandhi to tie up with his party. On the other hand, the BJP in its bid to form its first government since 1997 is seeking to reap electoral benefits from the note ban saga.
Notably, for the first time since 2007, the party ruling the Centre is in serious contention to rule Uttar Pradesh. If one looks at the opinion polls that have come out so far, it has been either SP-Congress or BJP at the pole position. Every pollster has relegated BSP to the third place.
However, history has been witness to many opinion polls going totally wrong (read Bihar pre-poll surveys).
What if BSP rises in it votes percentage, the narrow margin victories may reduce to the loss, which had won. One might never know if Mayawati could spring a surprise.
The results, expected on 11 March, can shape the political destiny of not just Uttar Pradesh but also India. It is then we will know whether the ‘elephant’ is able to trump the ‘cycle’ or if the ‘lotus’ will bloom after two decades. And it is worth remembering that the road to New Delhi passes through Lucknow.

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